FINDING SEOUL 1
The Asiana Airline flight crew looks vintage cool with their grey-brown uniforms, skirts past their knees, smart jackets, and hair swept smoothly into a chignon at the nape of their necks. The military style hat above their sixties red lip says, “we’re official, but we’re sexy too.” They sweep through the immigration line like VIPs, looking glamorous and ready to go out for a night on the town.
“Wow…they’re beautiful,” I say to Josiah. I think with pride that most of the girls look Korean.
Their uniform colors make me think of the thin, brown passport I had first left this country with when I was just seven years-old. My little brother and sister would have been with me then, accompanied by two case workers from Holt Adoption Agency.
I study the quiet and sleepy faces around me in the “foreigner” immigration line. We shuffle along as the “resident” line across the way from us empties. It feels a little strange to be in the line with foreigners because technically, I am coming home.
I see an older gentleman walk up to the immigration booth, his stout body and round face reminding me so much of my Apa that my heart begins to race. Even the cut of his clothes, the sensible blue and white button-down, remind me of him.
My heart bleeds for a moment like a teen freshly broken-up with and seeing her ex for the first time.
I am gripped with guilt. “I should have told my Apa I was coming.”
“No.” Josiah says, his tone reassuring. “This is your first time in Korea since you were adopted. It’s okay to take a few days to yourself, to take it all in. We will be back, my love. Don’t worry.”
I had been so certain before we left Tokyo that I was making the right choice for me, for him too. I planned to visit White Lily Baby Home and I imagined my Apa’s eyes as he observed me there, seeing the sad child he’d left, rather than the happy, adult woman who had returned.
I couldn’t…didn’t want to see what that might be like for him.
As we walk through immigration and onto the tiled floors of GIMPO International Airport, I look with wonder at the stamp in my passport that says, “Republic of Korea” and think it should leap off the page in 3D and technicolor.
I look around me, officially on Korean soil, breathe-in the Korean air, surrounded by Korean people, and wait expectantly for the memories to pounce.